Martha Bevins letters to Tom McCarthy

Abstract

Martha Bevins letters to Tom McCarthy (dated 1955-1962; 0.05 cubic feet; 55 items) consist of letters Bevins wrote to radio host Tom McCarthy, which he read aloud on his morning radio program broadcast from his farm in Ohio.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Martha Bevins letters to Tom McCarthy
Creator
Bevins, Martha
Extent
0.05 Cubic Feet
Subjects
Radio broadcasting.
Agriculture -- Kentucky.
Birds
Women air pilots.
Arrangement
Collection is arranged chronologically.
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Megan Mummey
Preferred Citation
2015ms086: [identification of item], Martha Bevins letters to Tom McCarthy, 1955-1962, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.
Repository
University of Kentucky

Collection Overview

Biography / History
Martha Bevins was born Martha Helen Croninger in Covington, Kentucky, on February 25, 1910 to Charles Murry Croninger and Caroline Hamilton Croninger. A pilot, Bevins joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II. She married Okey Bevins, also an experienced pilot, in 1928, in Cabell County, West Virginia. Okey Bevins was killed in 1935 when his plane hit the support wire of a radio broadcast mast. She lived on a farm in Morning View, Kentucky, during the 1950s and 1960s. She owned some livestock, horses, dogs, a small tractor, a barn, a pond, and a stand of trees that she called the tree patch. In addition to being a pilot, Bevins was also a naturalist, a conservationist, and a keen observer of wildlife, weather, and seasons.
Tom McCarthy (Thomas Joseph McCarthy, 1914-1977) was a writer, journalist, and radio and television broadcaster. In 1937, McCarthy worked as a columnist for the Washington Post. He hitchhiked from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, reporting on the lives of ordinary people during the Great Depression. During the 1960s and 1970s, his articles appeared in many publications including The Boston Globe Magazine, American Heritage, and The New York Times.
During the 1950s, McCarthy hosted a four hour, daily, morning radio program, which he broadcast from his farm, O'Bannon's Green, Clermont County, Ohio. He broke new ground by broadcasting his radio program, not from a studio in Cincinnati, Ohio, but 25 miles away on his family farm through a specially installed cable link. He held his show on the front porch of his house where the everyday sounds of farming, trains, planes, livestock, and wildlife were audible. These background noises became a feature of his live program. On the morning radio program, McCarthy reported international and local news; gave commentary; interviewed figures such as Eamon de Valera, James T. Farrel, and Aaron Copeland; and told stories about his farm's livestock and crops which he farmed organically. In 1958, McCarthy moved his program from WKRC Cincinnati to WNOP, Kentucky. In 1959, McCarthy ended his show and moved with his family to New Hampshire.
Bevins started sending McCarthy letters in 1955. And he began reading them during his radio show. She quickly started receiving her own fan mail. It is likely that Bevins and McCarthy never met, and Bevins always declined to be interviewed on air.
Scope and Content
Martha Bevins letters to Tom McCarthy (dated 1955-1962; 0.05 cubic feet; 55 items) consist of letters Bevins wrote to radio host Tom McCarthy, which he read aloud on his morning radio program broadcast from his farm in Ohio. The letters, always signed Bevins, contain detailed accounts of Kentucky country life, tornados, memories of the big freeze of 1918, a stake-out of a woodchuck on Groundhog Day, and of how as a pilot she and her co-pilot almost crashed into (the eventually ill-fated air ship) the Hindenburg over the streets of Manhatten. She often references her tree patch and talks about the birds that live there and migrate through her farm. Included among the many birds she mentions are jays, mockingbirds, cow birds, starlings, and woodpeckers. One story of note describes a quail on Bevins' farm hearing another quail over a radio. The letters also contain an account of McCarthy's broadcast from a lion's cage and mention both the show's move to WNOP in Kentucky and its end in 1959.

Restrictions on Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Access Collection is open to researchers by appointment
Use Restrictions
The physical rights to the materials in this collection are held by the University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.

Contents of the Collection

1955 December 21

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about the Chinook Wind and gives a weather report.
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1956 February 2

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Groundhog Day, waiting for the woodchuck.
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1956 March 6

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Tornado in tree patch.
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1956 March 19

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Feeding the song birds and the way to do it.
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1956 March 29

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about Mrs. Fur, a squirrel, raised by Bevins on formula. Mrs. Fur has been released into the wild and is building its nest.
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1956 April 20

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about Henry David Thoreau's Walden sent to her by Tom McCarthy as a thank you for her letters, which were unprompted. Mentions Balchen's War Below Zero.
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circa 1956 July

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Card with illustration of a Bob White. Talks about her fan mail and her enjoyment of bringing tree patch life to others.
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circa 1956 August

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Card with a woodpecker illustration. Talks about Carolina Wren in her cellar, getting into suds and white paint.
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1956 October 1

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Bevins thanks Tom McCarthy for burdening yourself with tape recorders through Europe in order that we who could not go might enjoy the tour. This is a reference to a European tour Tom McCarthy hosted for about thirty Cincinnati residents, listeners of his morning program.
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1956 October 11

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Finding abandoned kittens.
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1956 October 27

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about a town visitor finding Bevins' lively, sunlit woods gloomy.
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1956 November 14

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about the day after the election and the foggy weather.
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1956 November 28

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Describes a quail battle, live, over the radio. One Quail on McCarthy farm and one in Blevins' tree patch. Bevins, south of the Ohio River, had taken out-of-doors her radio while hearing Tom McCarthy, about fifty miles away, north of the Ohio River, broadcasting live the sound of a quail that had come close to the porch from which he broadcast his daily, Monday to Friday four-hour breakfast program. In summer the porch was screened in, in colder weather storm windows enclosed it, in freezing weather he moved his microphone and broadcast equipment into the sitting room. He would have asked the radio engineer in the studio in Cincinnati, to turn up the sound volume so that listeners could hear the sound of the quail's call. Bevins watched her quail's reaction to the invisible quail suddenly in his territory, through the radio.
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1956 December 18

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about the Flying Boxcar and Bevins' pioneering interactive radio with stopwatch.
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circa 1957

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Describes winter's first Christmas card. There was not much smoke from surrounding chimneys due to people having installed oil burners and stokers. Describes an abandoned house, her snow blade on a tractor, birds shouting to be fed, and the mockingbirds and doves not migrating as food is plentiful at Bevins' farm.
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1957 February

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Description of the 198 Big Freeze and the breaking up of ice on the Ohio River.
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1957 March 12

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Feeding wild birds and ways of doing it. Describes the design of suet feeder and baby woodpeckers herded by parents to suet feeder.
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1957 March 27

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about Tobacco Bed Spring, hand reared rabbit making nest, and pigs wearing cummerbunds.
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1957 April 16

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Bevins reflects on Tom McCarthy's photographs of Ireland, which he either sent her or she saw on television (at one point McCarthy had television newscasts). Bevins thanks him for sparing her selfies. Bevin puts out strips of burlap to help the birds build nests. Bevins says she enjoyed McCarthy's broadcast while going into the lion tamer's cage with lions and tigers together. Photographs of Tom McCarthy's broadcast from the lion's den appeared in the newspapers. Bevins refers to Tom McCarthy's wild week of aerial acts, lion's dens and copter flights. There is a surviving tape with the writer of this of Tom McCarthy recording an interview inside a lion tamer's cage where there was a mixture of lions and tigers. The copter flights would refer to Tom McCarthy, whose farm was surrounded by a creek that became a roaring torrent during high, spring floods, covering the only bridge exit, so on at least one occasion he was collected by helicopter that put down in a field near the house, taking him to survey and report on the flood waters that had made many Ohio River valley residents homeless, or trapped in or on top of their homes. As news editor he had to go into Cincinnati for a mid-day broadcast, radio and television. In those days newscasters were not just attractive faces and voices but experienced journalists who had to put together the news reports, local and international, follow-up stories and then broadcast the news.
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1957 April 24

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Describes the arrival of spring and the activities of wildlife. Describes how the Brown Thrasher will attack snakes, cats, and hawks when they invade the Thrasher's territory. Brown Thrasher imitates a sea gull after spending winter on the Gulf Coast.
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1957 May 10

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Describes hoeing the woodlot, being intentionally noisy so birds do not set up a stalking alarm, and frog sounds heralding the real spring.
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1957 May 23

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Describes a Cardinal hearing and responding to a Cardinal on a transistor radio, birds attacking a caterpillar infestation, and woodpeckers hanging upside down from branches at a suet feeder.
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1957 May 28

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Answers questions asked on air. Bevins answers included peanuts for wild bird feed, the shells make good mulch, and use Rotenone as a pesticide instead of DDT.
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1957 June 11

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about starlings killing other species' fledglings, jays have a special alarm call, the dogs kill a snake, and Bevins met a rattle snake.
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1957 June 24

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about string beans, Thoreau, and that a Cow Bird is killing other birds' young. Tom McCarthy (widely respected as an unflinching, crusading journalist) probably read out, in full, Bevins' letter about killing Cow Birds, something he would have personally disagreed with, probably saying so mildly on air, which one can deduce from the unrepentant tone of the opening of Bevins' letter of July 3, 1958.
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1957 July 3

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Bevins is not remorseful about the Cowbirds. Talks about Nike missile site.
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1957 July 12

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about feeding a baby robin and cow bird habits. Encloses what Bevins thinks is a cricket corpse. [not included in collection]
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1957 August 28

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Card with illustration of a rabbit and a bumblebee. Bevins says she can use both hands again after her accident with a tractor. Bevins enjoyed the recordings of Tom McCarthy's trips, particularly the trip to the Western United States.
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1957 September 10

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about the weather and drought. It has finally rained after a drought since July 4th.
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1957 September 13

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about her inability to use hand and deadly algae on the pond.
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1957 October 3

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about the Asian flu at an airbase in World War II caught from the Russians. This new type of flu fascinated the base doctor.
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1957 October 14

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about autumn after a drought, foxes, sparrows, and migrating Monarch butterflies and birds.
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1957 October 24

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about spectacular falls from aircraift and how a wheelbarrow of cement cushioned a man's fall.
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1957 November 6

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about air currents and flying.
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Edward J. Hunter letter to Tom McCarthy, 1957 November 20

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Edward J. Hunter of Batavia, Ohio, was a physicist and metallurgist during World War II. Tom McCarthy had received an unsolicited letter from Edward J Thompson, which was Thompson's response to Tom McCarthy reporting, on air, public findings about education. Hunter recounts the benefits of the disciplined education he had received in Britain and decries too great an emphasis on sport and not enough on discipline and education. Tom McCarthy would have read some or almost all of Thompson's letter out on air, which prompted Bevins to respond. Thompson asked that the final paragraph of his letter should be kept confidential and the strikeout line drawn through that paragraph shows that Thompson's request had been respected.
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1957 November 22

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Bevins wrote to Tom McCarthy in response to an unsolicited letter he had received from Edward J. Thompson, Thompson's response to Tom McCarthy reporting, on air, public findings about education in the United States at the time. She takes issue with his opinions on education in the US.
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1957 December 3

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about skywatching for Sputnick and a theory that a red mist seen in the sky is a Russian plot. The Theory was that the Russians were trying to color the moon red but the red dust ended up in Earth's atmosphere.
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1957 December 26

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Photographs enclosed but not found. Talks about shortwave radio, Christmas customs, and Christmas cards sent by fans.
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1958 January 8

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about Bevins' landing her plane in a Carolina swamp during a storm, rock and roll, and a black community at a train station singing in the moonlight.
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1958 March 20

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Mentions fan letters from McCarthy's listeners to her. Bevins wrote: deeply regret losing your radio program. Tom McCarthy's contract with WKRC Cincinnati expired and, after a short pause, he moved the program to Kentucky-based WNOP radio; the program format was essentially unchanged and Tom McCarthy was still broadcasting from the porch of his Ohio farm.
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1958 April 10

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Bevins tells McCarthy Welcome to Kentucky. Bevins mentions an enclosed but that has been lost. Presumably a cutting from a newspaper about Tom McCarthy's program move to WNOP. Tobacco-bed spring is three weeks late. Mentions and includes a poem entitled Once. Presumably typed by Bevins.
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1958 April 29

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Page two of the letter is missing. Talks about how the mockingbird is militant about its territory.
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1958 May 7

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
The word obscured on the last line of the first page is plane. Talks about near miss of Hindenburg over New York City. Bevins likes McCarthy's new theme it is happy music.
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1958 May 29

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about alewives and how the blooming of great oaks signaling the visit of warblers. Bevins states she liked McCarthy's leisurely newscast.
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1958 August 8

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about changes in farming methods.
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1958 August 28

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about gardening, poison oak covering a fence acts as natural security, and a delicious new corn hyprid. Bevins mentions Tom McCarthy's braodcast from French Lick, Indiana, where Frank Sinatra was making a film. She talks about her reaction to actors while she was in Hollywood.
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1958 October 27

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Bevins declines to be interviewed on Tom McCarthy's radio show, citing I panic completely when confronted with a microphone. Talks about the beautiful autumn, migrating birds, and fishing in the pond. Talks about illegal hunters and visiting Mergnansers, Sandhill Crane.
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1958 November 26

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Bevins' aunt is ill so Bevins had been away. Talks about how the coming cold weather sent of 1000 birds from tree patch, migrating at night. Mentions the hibernating bass in the pond.
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1958 December 18

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about jets breaking the sound barrier, twigs feell at the shock wave, livestock and wildlife scattered. Mentions spoonersims.
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1959 February 3

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about Old Farmer's Almanac, the high winds, a goldfinch came into the kitchen for protection, radio static predicting a coming eletrical storm, and the goldfinch waited for the storm to pass before leaving.
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1959 March 4

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about owls' soundless flight, Tom McCarthy reading his novel on air, great horned owls nesting, and jays helping find a male owl.
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1959 March 17

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Congratulates Tom McCarthy on being made a Kentucky Colonel. Bevins talks about diggind doves out of snow and how the doves lost their tail feathers.
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1959 March 24

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Talks about how Tom McCarthy's program was three hours long. She receives several fan letters a week. Mentions that McCarthy is going to Ireland on business and that her wingman sends her a calendar every year with the latest news from Ireland. Bevins writes her farewell to McCarthy and his family who were moving to New Hampshire.
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circa 1959 December

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Photographic Christmas card showing tree patch in the snow. Talks about rustlers stealing cattle, horses, and pigs. They stole her best steer from the man who had just purchased it from her. She's keeping her horses near the house which they tried to enter instead of the barn.
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circa 1962 December

  • Box MS-42, folder 1
Photographic Christmas card. The date of the card is an estimation because the New Hampshire beaver colony mentioned on Bevins'had not been established when the McCarthy's first moved to New Hampshire. Talks about how it is a fine year for persommons and how she would love to see the McCarthy's beaver colony. Bevins is still receiving fan mail from McCarthy's radio show.
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Researchers are encouraged to request collections at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Questions? Contact us at https://libraries.uky.edu/ContactSCRC.